Outdoor Education and Wilderness Programs for Teens
“US youth are in a mental health crisis,” warned the chief science officer of the American Psychological Association in February. “The stakes of untreated mental and behavioral health symptoms for children and adolescents are exceptionally high and can have profound consequences on the trajectory of a child’s life.”
Turning Winds is a family-run therapeutic boarding school for teens combined with a full continuum of care for mental health issues. We believe the success of our teenage clients is based on a combination of therapeutic and educational approaches that provide the best possible outcomes for each patient we treat at our school.
“The simple, singular focus of our treatment program is to help each student improve their self-image and their self-confidence and change the behaviors that have been hindering their growth by teaching them to create stable patterns of living through education, process groups, and individualized treatment planning,” says Turning Winds CEO Owen Baisden.
The therapeutic approaches—many particular to the Turning Winds boarding school environment—include character education, health, and wellness of the body and mind, outdoor therapeutic experiential education, therapeutic and academic success, along with continuously improving each vital pillar of our world-class school through measuring outcomes in each area. Together, these constitute five pillars of change. One of those pillars is utilizing the power of nature.
In his 2018 book Lost Connections, addiction and mental health journalist Johann Hari suggested that depression is largely driven by lost connections. Among the drivers of depression, Hari included being disconnected from meaningful values, other people, and a hopeful and secure future, but also being disconnected from the natural world.
Exposure to nature and exercising outdoors can contribute immensely to improving your mental health. Through utilizing outdoor recreation in our school our teens experience the therapeutic effect of the great outdoors in a way that few will ever experience.
The TREC program
Turning Winds uses the great outdoors of Montana to combine adventure therapy, experiential education, and psycho-educational therapy. Experiential learning is based on the assumption that lasting change can occur when people are placed outside their familiar comfort environment and immersed in new and thus somewhat challenging situations.
Clients turn from mere bystanders into participants and learn to appreciate the power of Mother Nature on our beautiful campus. The vehicle to connect our students with nature is our TREC (Turning Winds Recreation and Education Connection) program. TREC has helped hundreds of
teens improve their mental well-being and change how they view themselves. Through TREC, our students are able to experience first-hand activities such as backcountry hiking, backpacking, mountain bike riding, white water rafting, fishing, snowshoeing, skiing/snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and many other activities.
Each activity isn’t simply a fun outing but also a therapeutic tool we utilize to teach important life lessons such as endurance, teamwork, mental strength, and self-confidence.
Learning activities are real and meaningful: reflection and problem-solving are vehicles for intellectual and emotional stimulation, and students are accountable for their own behaviors and insights. Outdoor education maximizes the experience for the teenagers we serve. Maintaining a good balance between work and recreation is a top goal at the Turning Winds therapeutic school.
Reconnecting with nature in a therapeutic context can change a person’s outlook on life, their sense of self-worth, and induce a feeling of spiritual connectedness with the universe. Being exposed to the grandeur of nature can give you a sense of peace and harmony.
At Turning Winds, it’s not only the landscape but also the people who make the difference. Over the course of more than twelve years, we’ve built a team of some of the world’s finest academic and therapeutic professionals, all of whom share the same goal: to help teens re-engage meaningfully with their lives, their families, and their futures.